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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Westerfield — (Runs 59 and 451)

(Runs 59 and 451)

These runs, of over forty thousand acres altogether, were taken up in October, 1854, by Sir John Hall. The country lay above Lagmhor, between the Hinds and Ashburton. The McLeans contested Hall's right to the run in April, 1855, but Hall managed to hold it, and soon afterwards sold it unstocked to Charles Reed for £2000.

For many years in the 'fifties and 'sixties J. T. Ford managed both Westerfield and Tresillian for Reed, with a man named Bovey as overseer at Westerfield. Afterwards Reed lived at Westerfield himself with L. E. page 121Corsbie as manager under him. In 1875 Corsbie left and went to Alford, and D. Oliver, the head shepherd, became manager. He was a very good sheepman from Australia and in those days one of the best judges of merino sheep in Canterbury. Archibald Clark was head shepherd before Oliver.

Reed made about a third of the run freehold. He died in 1880. His executors then sold the station with 20,000 sheep to Cyril Hawdon (son of Joseph Hawdon) for £62,000. Hawdon bought it for himself and Alexander and Richard Strachey.

Mrs Reed sailed for England but died on the journey home. Her son, Charles Reed junior, who went home with her, came out again in 1892 to try to buy Westerfield back, but could not finance it so returned to England where he died soon afterwards.

Hawdon and the Stracheys sold Maranui, a block of the freehold next Lagmhor, and Hackthorne, which Charles Harper bought, and other parts of the freehold soon after they bought the station. When they dissolved partnership the arbitrators gave each a share of the land, what were afterwards the Clarewell and Bar-ford Estates going to the Stracheys, and Hawdon getting the Westerfield homestead. Oliver stayed with him as manager until 1886. Hawdon sold Westerfield with two thousand five hundred acres to C. H. Dowding and Charles Franklyn Todhunter in 1890.

Todhunter bought Dowding's share and kept Westerfield until 1900, when he sold it to A. F. Roberts who added land to it until the station again consisted of five thousand acres of freehold.

Roberts cut up Westerfield and sold it in 1908. The homestead, now a farm, belongs to J. and L. J. Fechney, whose father bought it from Roberts.

Reed was an old Victorian squatter. The following is an account of him sent me by one who worked for him at Westerfield. 'When Mr Reed worked in the yards he used to wear a pair of wide white moleskin trousers, a blue woollen smock (it used to be called in Victoria a " blue shirt ") and a cabbage tree hat. The page 122blue shirt and cabbage tree hat were the last I ever saw—the only ones I ever saw in New Zealand—though they were both common in Victoria in the early days. Mr Reed's favourite expletives were "By Heavens!" and " You damnable savages! " On one occasion Mr Reed in his moleskins, blue shirt and cabbage tree hat was taking a mob of sheep out to one of the paddocks when he met two " commercials " [swaggers]. One of them said to him " Good day, mate, is old Scabby at home?" (He went by the name of " Scabby.") Mr Reed said " Oh yes, he's at home." The man said " I wonder if the old———will give us a feed." Mr Reed said " Most likely he will." Mr Reed, coming back another way arrived home before the men and was waiting for them. " Oh yes," he said, " the old——will give you a feed this time, but by Heavens, you damnable savages, don't let me ever see you at Westerfield again."

' Mrs Reed would never live on the station. I believe she had never seen it until 1878 when she went there and stayed for a very short time.'

All this makes Reed seem eccentric, but he was a very practical stock owner and efficient manager. He was the first man to start water races in Canterbury, and thirteen miles of his old station races are still used by the Ashburton County Council. His ambition was ultimately to work Westerfield like an English country estate and let the land in farms. In 1873 he built a well-equipped flour mill which was worked until it was burnt down, and by 1874 had laid out a township with sites reserved for church and village inn, and had established four tenants on the freehold. When sheep-washing was thought necessary, Reed had a very superior plant for it. In the 'seventies the station carried about 23,000 sheep, two-thirds of them half-and three-quarterbreds by 1874. Reed had a stud flock of merinos and for a short time one of Dartmoor sheep. In 1874 he spent £1000 on bringing a Lincoln stud flock out from England.

Reed was, as my correspondent says, sometimes page 123known as ' Scabby Reed ' because he brought scabby sheep down from Nelson to Tresillian and infested his neighbours, but the real ' Scabby Reed ' was another old Victorian squatter who went broke there in 1850 and came and drove a cab in Christchurch. He suffered from barber's itch.

Hawdon went Home for good when he sold Westerfield and so did one of the Stracheys. The other owners are too well remembered to require description. Tod-hunter was the father of R. Todhunter of Blackford and Lake Heron. Dowding managed Coldstream for many years. He was the clerk of the course for the first New Zealand Grand National.

In 1874 a man working in the yards of Westerfield was badly butted in the stomach by a sheep and died a day or two afterwards. Not long afterwards Henry Davey, the station carpenter, was drowned when a dray upset in the Ashburton river, and two days after that a shepherd broke his leg when a horse fell with him.